We have so much to learn from our WWII veterans. Besides saving the world from pure evil, the men – and women – of the greatest generation taught us about duty, bravery and honor. At no other time in our nation’s history did so many stand up for what was right and sacrifice their lives and livelihoods to ensure freedom for generations to come.
This Veterans’ Day, we should remember this great generation and how what they did for us then has created the world we know now. From the men on the beaches of Normandy, to their wives in the factories back home, every American was fighting – fighting for my parents’ generation and my generation and my children’s generation. They fought simply so that we could live and live free.
I am regularly reminded of the scope of WWII, and it never ceases to amaze me. Not only were the shear numbers of enlisted men massive, but with every action a serviceman took, came an infinite number of consequences.
Let me illustrate:
My grandfather, who served on the USS Columbia in the South Pacific, worked in the radio shack (yes, that’s where the company’s name came from) of the ship. This room was one of the highest points on the boat, atop a tall tower. The Columbia was attacked by kamikazes three times throughout the war. On one attack, the plane struck just below the radio shack, severing the compartment completely. The structure exploded in a burst of flames and all the men working there were thrown into the water. Most, if not all, of them died. This just happened to occur while my grandfather was on his fifteen minute break below deck, eating a sandwich.
Fifteen minutes. If that plane had hit at any time that day outside of those fifteen minutes, my grandfather would have likely died. He would not have came home after the war and had his ten children, one of them being my father. My father would never have had me and my four brothers. My brother would never have had his two kids. An entire family rested on fifteen minutes.
This is what I think of when I consider the consequences of WWII. There must be thousands of stories just like my grandfather’s. Unfortunately, the window of opportunity to hear and record these stories is quickly closing. Every day, around 800 WWII veterans die.
I hope to soon begin a research project to find veterans and record their stories, thoughts and lasting impressions of the war. I think this is something that must be done before too long, but it must be done by hundreds of us all around the country – our government has already started. Very soon the oral history of WWII will be gone. It would be a shame if all we were left with were the facts and dates of battles and had little history of the men and women who made our world possible.